The midlist writer’s triumph

This post was written by guest blogger Carrie Frye.

James Hynes has a new book out, called Kings of Infinite Space. I spent Saturday reading it and can report it’s marvelous. Dark and funny and well paced. If you liked Publish and Perish, you’ll get down with this one too.

If you haven’t yet read Publish and Perish, and you’re frequenting a website like this, go out and get it immediately — it’s that good, I promise — and then read Kings of Infinite Space. There’s a pleasing progression between the two books. (I was a little disappointed by Hynes’ third book, A Lecturer’s Tale, which got bogged down in its own fantasia near the end. Still very funny in bits, though.)

The velvety TMFTML links to this essay by Hynes, in which he discusses the impetus for Kings:

The year my second book, Publish and Perish, came out, I took a job as an office temp for a large Texas state agency, working for eight dollars an hour. This was one of the inevitable low points on the sine wave of my career, a boring day job being the default mode of a midlist writer’s livelihood. Still, I had never worked in an office before, and the experience was more exotic than humiliating.

Within a day of finding myself in a cubicle for the first time in my life, I was taking notes like an anthropologist about the strange folklife of the office — PowerPoint, anyone? Secret Santa? — and within a week I was planning to write about it.

Hynes also proposes an interesting link between Kafka and Poe:

I’ve always thought of them as peas in a pod: heat up Kafka’s prose a little and you get “The Premature Burial” cool off Poe’s just a bit and you get “In the Penal Colony.” Kafka was a gothic modernist, after all, and Poe was alienated before alienation was cool. But the main thing they share is a bleak sense of humor. I realize neither is generally thought of as a laffmeister, but the idea behind “The Metamorphosis” is fundamentally a comic one, with a fair amount of flat-out slapstick in its execution. And Poe’s best-known stories are basically sick jokes — “The Cask of Amontillado” is a pretty funny story, really — and I can see as if in a mirror the mischievous grin he wore as he wrote.


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